catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 22 :: 2004.12.31 — 2005.01.13


Open heart

What is friendship, that it should have such power? Everyone knows about love. Romantic love, married love, adulterous love: happy love affairs, unhappy ones. Everyone knows about love, no one knows about friendship.?

?Judith, in Love. Friendship. by Joyce Carol Oates

Friendship is inexplicable, a mystery. Or so it seems. Throw together some common causes and inclinations at a gathering of people and soon we stick to each other like glue. But it?s more than this. It?s like we?re ciphered and we go around opening our hearts to these others, these code breakers, and with the script revealed we recognize the beauty of their skill to know us. Friend!

There is an element of choice the theory goes, when it comes to friends. Before the likes of, the on-line friend-finder that plays the six-degrees of separation* game, it was perhaps harder to find pals of common interest we?d be willing to open up to. When we?re young we simply ask, ?Do you want to be my friend?? Try that at 30, or 40: As we age acquiring new friends is nearly impossible if there are no children to serve as catalysts. Other associations only come too easily.

Families are that different beast; we are born into them and find ourselves already a member of the club replete with gentle sibling hazing and familial initiation rites. These families can either be seemingly constricting serfdoms or the ?smallest democracy at the heart of our ever-changing society? (Seufert-Barr). What is not mysterious is that both family and friends are a present from God, a salve and an assurance that we do not sojourn alone.

I think of old friends Ron, Robert, and Jay; I ponder my new friends Mark times two, Allison, Jenny, Karen; I remember my sisters San and Denise; my brothers Kevin and Michael; I think of my wife, Dyan, and I cannot remember them or bring them into my thoughts without thinking of God. Who else could have told them what rests in my heart? Who else could have known the details of my redemption?

I have always sought a wide and varied circle of family and friends; answered prayers brought me this, and continue to do so. When I was an alcoholic, my heart was opened by Dyan. She read me, understood and helped me. When I was just a boy and needed to become a man, my heart opened and there was Robert. When I was a faltering man, my heart opened and there was Ron. Through telephone calls and long walks; letters and coffee conversations, my heart sat open and my brothers and sisters read me, counseled me and saved me. How often the words of my father, the advice from my mother have given me new life. This is the story of friendship and family. It is a narrative written in our hearts, penned by God. We are saved and save one another. ?[W]hen you are weak and vulnerable and paralyzed in body and spirit, having friends can save your life; and that even when you can?t or don?t believe, having friends who do can give you your life back? (Buchanan 3). Time and time again, my friends and family have given me my life back?the original gift. I only needed to seek, to ask, to knock.

Recently, I joined a new faith initiative?to borrow a popular phrase?and have met a new circle of friends. It was completely by accident?or so I thought?that we should cross paths. The pole of this ostensibly relative inaccessibility was a church cooperative (its mandate unknown to me at the time) far from my home. I had traveled there with Dyan to see a play?we were supporting a friend. While there I came across a bookstore, a caf?, an art gallery and a space where I felt a need; I don?t think I heard a single still, small voice. The air was susurrant. All was imprinted onto my heart. I investigated this small and vibrant community and found that it was run by individuals interested in reaching out, in bringing Christian culture to those yearning for it. Just like me. I signed up and have been with them every since. We work together in Christian fellowship, to promote literacy; to support one another and all who walk through the door. Although for the most part we spend our Sundays apart at myriad places of worship, our cooperation in this arts facility is a shared space found in brick and mortar, and yet stronger still in our hearts. It is intercessional; it is prayer. It is an extension of family and friends. ?When we pray together, we are always praying on behalf of those among us who, for whatever reason, are not able to pray. ?[W]e are believing for those who today have no belief left. When we give, we give also for those who cannot. Friendship heals? (Buchanan 3).

Friendship heals what anomie puts asunder. We Christians know this. It is in the secular culture that friendship is reduced to a medicinal cure or pyramid scheme. In the secular story the redemptive source remains individualistic and enigmatic. It is Jean-Paul Satre. It is Albert Camus. It is Judith in an Oates novel. It is a computer catalyst.

To those in the tribe of David, Jesus and Thomas: Over time we come to understand the might of blood, of propinquity: family and friends; we come to read clearly the story being uttered now as it has for thousands of years. We clearly deduce a hand at work on these jars of clay. It begins with the shaping of an open heart.

*Idea coined by playwright John Guarre for the possibility of knowing everyone in the world through six people and their friends.

Works Cited

  • Buchanan, John M. ?Help from Our Friends.? The Christian Century 20 June 2001: 3.

  • Seufert-Barr, Nancy. ?The Smallest Democracy.? UN Chronicle Mar. 1994: 43+

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